Four Fruitful Questions – pt 1November 7, 2007
As yesterday I was researching my sermon passage for Sunday, I took about an hour asking questions of my text. Though I have often understood the importance of doing this, I have often wrestled with what questions to ask. These days I tend to stick to only a few basic queries – queries which I’ve found most fruitful. Today I’ll share the first two. Come back next Wednesday for questions three and four.
1) What is the content of the passage?
Here I’m simply trying to establish what the passage says. This is not always straightforward. Usually whilst ‘reading through’ in several translations, I have already noted any significant differences in terms of translation. It is then incumbent upon me to study the Greek text carefully and do word studies on anything debatable or significant. Obviously we don’t have time to examine every word in a lengthy passage (nor is there typically a need to). However, we must do some digging to ensure that the English translation we are using doesn’t have blind spots to the content of the passage.
2) What is the context of the passage?
This considers the immediate circumference of the text and the location of the passage within the sweep of the book. It is crucial for correct interpretation. For example, this Sunday’s sermon from Luke 15 requires my understanding that conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious establishment (Lk 15:2) has been ongoing since Lk 11:53-54. More immediately, Jesus has warned the Pharisees in chapter 14 not to miss out on God’s grace. Additionally, at the close of the chapter he calls for those who have ears ‘to hear’ (Lk 14:35). Yet from the outset of the 15th chapter it is clear that the Pharisees and Scribes are deaf to the gospel (v 2). At the same time, both ‘tax collectors’ and ‘sinners’ (v 1) are all-ears to this message of grace. All this informs my interpretation of Luke 15.